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RE: [xmca] Progress: Reality or Illusion?

The literature on understanding of integers notes a developmental
difference between a "two-attribute" and "single-attribute"
interpretation of negative number. Consider a child who places one hand
in a bucket of ice cold water and the other in a bucket of hot water,
and is asked "which bucket has warmer water?" The "two-attribute"
approach is characterized by dichotomous thinking, as in the bewildered
response, "This water isn't warm at all, it's cold!" As a later stage of
development hot and cold are realized as poles of a single dimension. 

Seems like both of these perceptual frames are phenomenologically valid.
Maybe you're arguing from different frames. 


Davis, R. B. & Maher, C. A. (1993). The reality of negative numbers. In
R. B. Davis & C. A. Maher (Eds.), Schools, mathematics, and the world of
reality (pp. 51-60). Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon.

-----Original Message-----
From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu [mailto:xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu]
On Behalf Of Greg Thompson
Sent: Monday, February 27, 2012 5:51 PM
To: ablunden@mira.net; eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: Re: [xmca] Progress: Reality or Illusion?

What about "sacred" and "profane" objects?
They can be compared, no?
Are their quantities of "sacredness" contained in one but not the other?
Or is the "sacred" object not really "sacred" (hence the need for scare

NB: I'm only taking slight issue with Andy's formulation of "only
quantities can be compared," but I am with Andy 100% on the importance
of thirds - there is certainly a third involved here as well. Here the
third is a social community, as Durkheim would have it; or
alternatively, the third is "God" or "the gods" (or "spirits" or
"mana"...) as the natives would have it). In the end, you get something
very similar to exchange value (and for any interested, Webb Keane has a
wonderful paper on the semiotics of material artifacts, and Paul
Kockelman has a great one too that compares Marx's exchange value with
semiotic notions of "value").


On Mon, Feb 27, 2012 at 3:20 PM, Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net> wrote:

> You are correct, Steve. The example of exchange value is precise. The 
> point Ilyenkov is making is correct: in order to compare two 
> commodities, a third, money is required and is eventually produced by 
> the historical process. But I still feel that to go straight to money 
> from the problem of comparison both skips over the historical stage of

> the evolution of money and om the context of your discussion, skipped 
> over the cognitive stage of abstracting quantity from quality. OK?
> Andy
> Steve Gabosch wrote:
>> Hi Bruce,
>> I'm thinking about your comments about Novack.
>> Meanwhile I am pondering Andy's claim.  He seems to be saying that 
>> properties, qualities, objects, processes, or whatever is being 
>> compared must all possess a common quantifiable aspect.  This aspect 
>> can be objective or subjective.  We can both agree that something is 
>> "very ridiculous," but in agreeing on that we are using a common 
>> quantity-like scale.
>> This quantifiability criteria is clearly the case in Marx's 
>> discussion of exchange value.  He discusses the **amount** of 
>> abstract labor in a commodity.
>> It is even the case in Novack's formulations about how to objectively

>> determine progress when he says things like "The productivity of 
>> labor is the fundamental test for measuring the advancement of 
>> humanity because this is the basis and precondition for all other 
>> forms of social and cultural advancement."  The productivity of labor
is a quantifiable entity.
>> (As a side note, this criteria Novack suggests regarding labor 
>> productivity could be used as a way of shedding light not only on 
>> things like differences between feudalism and capitalism, but also 
>> things like the historical character of Stalinism in the USSR, which 
>> did much to hold back labor productivity.)
>> A counter-example is not immediately occurring to me to refute Andy's

>> claim that only quantifiable things can be compared.  Can you think
of one?
>> On the question of requiring a third something that I raised, here is

>> a discussion of that:
>> Ilyenkov in Dialectical Logic Ch 1, p 18 says:
>> "... when we wish to establish a relation of some sort between two 
>> objects, we always compare not the 'specific' qualities that make one

>> object 'syllable A' and the other a 'table', 'steak', or a 'square', 
>> but only those properties that express a 'third' something, different

>> from their existence as the things enumerated.
>> "The things compared are regarded as different modifications of this 
>> 'third' property common to them all, inherent in them as it were.
>> "So if there is no 'third' in the nature of the two things common to 
>> them both, the very differences between them become quite senseless."
>> If Ilyenkov is correct on this, and Andy is also correct, then not 
>> only is a 'third' required, but the common thing between the three 
>> things must be quantifiable.
>> Are you aware of any discussions of this question in Marxist or 
>> Hegelian literature, Bruce?  How about you, Andy?
>> - Steve
>> On Feb 27, 2012, at 7:00 AM, Andy Blunden wrote:
>>  Any two things yes, but one must abstract from the "things" to carry

>> out
>>> the comparison.
>>> EG I can say that red has a higher frequency of EM radiation than 
>>> green, or I might say that in my survey more people selected red as 
>>> their favourite colour than did green. But in what practical sense 
>>> can I say that red is more than green?
>>> Andy
>>> Bruce Robinson wrote:
>>>> "Only quantities can be compared." Really?? Can't one compare any 
>>>> two things?
>>>> Bruce
>>>> Andy Blunden wrote:
>>>>> Steve Gabosch wrote:
>>>>>> Hi Andy,
>>>>>> Let me see if I am grasping your point.
>>>>>> Let me begin by agreeing with what I see as your premise.  I 
>>>>>> agree that two things can only be compared when compared to a
relevant third.
>>>>> No, that is not what I am saying, Steve. Only quantities can be 
>>>>> compared. You can't compare, for example, red and green, and ask 
>>>>> which is more. So before a quantitative comparison is to be made 
>>>>> one must have settle the appropriate means of quantification and 
>>>>> the practical means of comparison. The resulting claim then is 
>>>>> meaningful: "Cats are heavier than mice."
>>>>> Andy
>>>>> ______________________________**____________
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>>> --
>>> ------------------------------**------------------------------**
>>> ------------
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> ------------------------------**------------------------------**
> ------------
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> Joint Editor MCA: 
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> m/toc/hmca20/18/1> Home Page: http://home.mira.net/~andy/
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Gregory A. Thompson, Ph.D.
Sanford I. Berman Post-Doctoral Scholar
Department of Communication
University of California, San Diego
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